Rich choice for Reform Judaism
Date: Friday 18th February
Rich choice for Reform Judaism
After a comprehensive international search, which attracted a strong list of candidates, the Movement for Reform Judaism has appointed strategist and communications expert, Ben Rich, as its next Chief Executive, to succeed Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand.
Ben has been working as a consultant for the Reform Movement alongside Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand and Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield CBE since helping to launch the new Reform Siddur three years ago. He will be leading a strong senior team, including the newly-appointed Pam Goldsmith, currently Co-Chair of Finchley Reform Synagogue, who becomes Director of Operations and Community Support.
In addition to his work for the Movement, in recent years Ben has undertaken projects for Alyth, Kol Chai and Middlesex New Reform synagogues, as well as JCoSS and Mitzvah Day.
Ben is a member of the London Jewish Forum, a regular columnist for the Jewish News and the former chair of the JC Power 100, as well as a Governor of the UK’s first Hindu state school, in Edgware, which he helped to establish.
Prior to setting up his own consultancy specialising in providing communications advice to faith and community organisations, Ben was a director of Luther Pendragon, one of the largest and most successful independently-owned PR businesses in the country. There, in addition to helping to run the 50-strong consultancy, he advised a range of blue ribbon clients, including National Grid, Wrigley’s and the Cabinet Office. His award-winning 2005 campaign on behalf of the Home Office to mark Holocaust Memorial Day played a major part in his decision to refocus his work on faith communities. Previously, he served for four years as Deputy Policy Director for the Liberal Democrats, working closely with Paddy Ashdown.
“I feel very honoured and excited at the opportunity to take on this role, heading up what I know from personal experience is a very strong team.
“We are at a unique moment of opportunity for Reform Judaism. I believe Reform Judaism represents the values and practices of the vast majority of British Jewry, even if old habits and affiliations die hard. Yet the remarkable success of cross-communal organisations such as JCoSS and Limmud, the increased prominence of Reform Judaism, and the changing of the guard in Jewish communal leadership, all combine to throw in the air many traditional assumptions. I look forward to leading the Reform Movement into the next stage of its journey.”
Stephen Moss, Chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism, says:
“The post attracted an extremely strong field from a range of different backgrounds. In the end, however, Ben stood out and was the Board’s unanimous choice because of his strengths as a strategist and communicator, his outstanding knowledge and contacts across the Jewish community, and his expertise in leadership, stakeholder relations and fundraising.”
Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield CBE, Immediate Past Head of Movement for Reform Judaism, says:
“Ben and I have worked closely together over the past three years and I am absolutely thrilled by his appointment. He brings to the post a gravitas, commitment to Reform Judaism and entrepreneurial spirit which will serve us extremely well in the years ahead.”
Rabbi Tony Hammond, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, says:
“Ben is well-known to many of my Rabbinic colleagues having worked diligently with them to raise the profile of Reform Judaism. I’m sure they will share my delight at the opportunity to work with him on a full-time basis, heading up the professional arm of our Movement.”
Ben (44) grew up in a Liberal Jewish family in South London. While at university in York, where he was chair of the Jewish Society, he attended Sinai Synagogue, Leeds working closely with the then rabbi, Walter Rothschild, who was also the progressive chaplain. On returning to London he attended, at different times, West London Synagogue and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, before moving to Pinner. He can now regularly be found with his wife and two young children at Tot Shabbat services at both Middlesex New (the Reform synagogue in Harrow) and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue. He is also helping to organise the first Harrow Limmud in March.
Ben Rich will start work full-time on 1st May, although from the beginning of March he will start to work-shadow Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand to ensure a smooth and orderly handover.